Who Am I
A lot of games start us off with amnesia, but Who Am I goes all the way with the premise. Blind and trapped in your own mind, you'll have to explore your memories and do some light puzzle solving to solve the riddle of identity.
The Last Door (Chapter 3)
A point-and-click series that melds logical puzzles and strong characterization with unsettling atmosphere. The fourth chapter is already available to supporters, as well.
A short, experimental first person game. Probably best not to spoil the surprise, but it's not necessarily the straightforward "find the missing woman" quest you were expecting.
The only thing worse than making friends is knowing you'll lose them. Also, sad is happy for deep people.
The Uncle who Works for Nintendo
An unsettling exploration of emotional abuse and manipulation among kids playing videogames, The Uncle who Works for Nintendo doubles as a handy parable about some recent unpleasantness (you'll figure it out.) An all around excellent and thought provoking piece of fiction.
A Myst-like "push and pull on everything" sort of puzzle series, Submachine just keeps getting more elaborate. The puzzles are satisfying enough that it isn't necessary to begin at the beginning.
Gods Will Be Watching
An expedition has been stranded on an inhospitable world, and it's up to you to keep them alive by... talking to them. An interesting on a stranded survival story.
A weird Russian anime-themed dating sim? Well, now I guess I have seen everything. NSFW-ish.
Explore a beautiful neon underwater maze full of strange, hungry, stabby creatures. SubRay is more about atmosphere and sound than it is pew-pew lasers, though. In fact, it's often more reasonable to go dark and invisible and just swim by everything using sonar. Yeah, sonar was definitely a theme at Digipen this year.
"Your friend, a folk storyteller, has offered to perform her latest work. As her audience, it is your task to advise how her tale should unfold." A creepy interactive story pulled out of slavic folklore.
Ten giant sun birds are scorching the surface of the earth like giant sun birds like to do. It's up to a lone archer to track them down and destroy them. A neat adventure with a mythic Chinese theme.
A slightly different take on the same concept as Lurking, Ping also drops us in a darkened maze with only a sonar-ping to illuminate our surroundings. Which is unsettling when its brief flash reveals that we're not so alone as we assumed. Also, someone has been scrawling creepy-crazy messages all over the walls and floors again.
Visualizing echolocation is a neat idea. Lurking leaves you completely blind unless you make a noise in or outside the game. If you walk or knock things over, ripples of returning sound show you your surroundings. More interestingly, making noise or breathing too loud near your microphone also emits visualized noise in the game. Which is problematic when there are unpleasant things around that also see by hearing. Try not to whimper.
Life After Us: The System
The second in a series of Lovecraft-inspired stories, The System puts you in a dark and disused sanitarium in search of a missing girl. Yup, it's one of those! A good one, though.
Close Your Eyes
A puzzle platformer where traversable bridges and impassible barriers appear and disappear when you close your eyes. But when you close your eyes the things that want to eat you can move closer.
A sibling in the Amnesia/Slender/SCP family of maze games, Dark Deception borrows that tension and jump-scariness, but also has you essentially playing first person pac-man, where pellets are "soul shards" and you're being chased by deranged monkeys instead of brightly colored gumdrop ghosts. Dark Deception has been greenlit on Steam and is getting a plot and backstory and whatnot, but I still like how the demo just drops you in this absurd situation without explanation.
Depths of Boatmurdered
Speak ye not of Boatmurdered. To even whisper the name of that damned place is to conjure images of furious elephants, puppies afire, and dwarves possessed by madness, carving a carving of a carving of a cheese upon the walls of a tomb best left unopened. Or I suppose you could just walk unarmed into the cursed and abandoned fortress. Because that'd be brilliant of you.
One of those "wander around in the dark until something horrible jumps out and you make a rorschach test in your pants" sort of games. If nothing else, it's a blast to watch skittish wimps try to play this thing with an Oculus.
On the subject of games that exist just to screw with you, here's one offered without explanation.
Oh, hells yes. I can't even begin to imagine how this hasn't been a thing before now. They straight up took Pokemon Gold/Silver and put all its pixelly graphics on a Wolfenstein-like third axis. That sounds kind of rough, but it's utterly charming.
I don't think the world will ever have enough exploratory platform RPGs. Phoenotopia is a standout example, with gorgeous minimalist art, a pretty soundtrack, and a great little story. Must play.
The Painted Heart
What is it with magical paintings needing to be fixed from the inside, anyway? Painted Heart combines lovely watercolor art, a sweet, funny story, and a battle system that could just as well be described as a puzzle game. Well worth it.
King's Bounty is one of those genre-defining strategy-rpgs that doesn't really need introduction, and Flash's Bounty takes that original concept and pares it back down to its roots in a cute way that's both accessible to newcomers and nostalgic for us old farts. A great way to kill a few hours.
A nifty pay-what-you-want open world space game game in the vein of Elite/Freelancer. Zip around the galaxy doing odd jobs, maybe turn pirate or get caught up in a generations-long interstellar war. Bonus: you can actually get out of your ship and stretch your legs on stations. Weird how these things almost never let you do that.
Survival games are all the rage lately, and wayward does the "stranded alone with no clue what to do" with a roguelike twist and skill based progression.
The surface of the world has become uninhabitable, so the last remnants have holed up in the crumbling remains of a subterrainian metro-network. Inspired by old school tactical RPGs like fallout, Underrail offers a unique setting and absolutely ludicrous character customization.
A multiplayer physics platformer that requires multicolored blobby friends to fling rocks, turn gears, and literally stick together to get through its levels. Charming.
A dark, contemplative platformer where loss and regrets have become a literal ball-and-chain. Interestingly, that ball and chain is both a burden and your most useful tool.
Twisted Adventures: Little Red Riding Hood
My favorite part of the Little Red Riding Hood story was always the part where she jumps across a field of spinning planetesimals collecting doodads and freeing caged rabbits. Well, it was part of the original story. You know, back when it was cool.
An artful skewering of those N64 collectathons that used to dominate the console back in the day. There are glowing doodads and wingwongs all over the place, and you WILL collect them. Do any of them actually do something? Maybe!
Originally released as a cartridge for the Commodore 64 in 2014, Power Glove is... wait, that can't be right.
Why did we ever put robots in charge of energy production for the entire planet, anyway? I mean, it's not like centuries of fear-mongering films and literature didn't warn us about the dangers of trusting robots with anything. Surprise, surprise: They've revolted, and now there's only one guy who can personally smash the crap out of each and every one of them. Fortunately, saving mankind strongly resembles a platform/puzzle game with a lot of robot punching in between.
Venture ever downward into the limitless depths with a bow and arrow as both your only weapon and light source. You'll eventually run out of arrows and find yourself alone in the dark, surrounded by nasties, but let's see how far you can make it first.
"Jump the saws. Grab the keys. Get the girl." Well, it sounds so easy when you put it that way, but WizardWizard is a hard, mean, not very nice game sometimes. Thirty-odd years of this sort of thing and you'd think I'd be better at not jumping into saw blades.
So apparently when Orcs and panda people and whatnot aren't out bashing frog monsters, they're hanging out at the inn playing a card game wherein Orcs and panda people and whatnot bash frog monsters. Escapism is a completely alien concept to the World of Warcraft. Meanwhile, Hearthstone is a great little WoW-themed CCG, though it can take a while to get a competitive collection of cards without plunking down some cash.
While it doesn't have quite the polish or playerbase of Hearthstone, Infinity Wars features animated cards with a unique style, and game mechanics that offer more opportunity for weird and creative combinations. Free decks and boosters come fast enough to build a strong deck or two in a few hours, and simultaneous turns make for quick matches. Far and away my favorite online card game right now.
Heroes and Generals
Depending on your role, Heroes and Generals is one of two different games. An RTS game for the titular generals, or a multiplayer shooter for the heroes. A good time all around whether you prefer to fight on the front line or be the guy back in the tent calling the shots.
Battle Cry: Age of Myths
Battle Cry was already kind of crazily detailed for a flash game. Customizing every individual unit in an army is just the sort of thing that'll appeal to anyone for a love of miniature war games, and it had tons upon tons of options even before the Age of Myths expansion added even more units, weapons, and missions.
Spread spores between little planetoids in this FPS/RTS hybrid. Kind of like Galcon, except in first person.
Snap robots together from bits and cubes and then beam them down to blow each other to pieces like murderous Legos. Particularly neat how knocking individual pieces off can put a flying opponent off balance or leave a tank crippled.
Whip minions to earn more money to buy more minions to earn more money to hire a boss to whip the minions to make more money to hire better minions to make more money to... Yeah, this is either a lesson in how exponents work or a stark parable about work and death. Regardless, it's irritatingly addictive.
Mims: The Beginning
It's only a 3-5 hour demo, but this peculiar RTS god game shows unique art direction, a light sense of humor, and a lot of promise.
Tome: Immortal Arena
There's a lot not to like about MOBA games, but if too-long matches, steep learning curves and toxic communities drove you away from games like LoL and DotA2, maybe give Tome a shot. Matches don't require an hour of commitment, tend not to be full of intolerable brats who just learned to swear, and it's easy enough to pick up without more studying than you did in college. It's early days for the game, but it's already shaping up to be a much more pleasant alternative.
A mess of crayola robots with color-specific abilities need to be moved around a stage to solve platform puzzles. Some can jump higher, others can take a beating, and some can pick up and move other robots. Kind of like Lost Vikings, except instead of three hairy men you're ordering around a crapload of rainbow R2D2s.
We all know mimics. You know, those pain in the ass fake treasure chests that punish us for the unforgivable sin of wanting stuff? Well, how about taking on the role of the king of mimics in a puzzle game where you tempt and devour good guys in order to trade your way up to better and better loot to tempt more good guys? Kind of like Final Fantasy meets Needful Things.
NOVA RNA Lab
From the guys who turned protein folding into a puzzle game a while back, RNA lab is a fun way to learn about how RNA works. It's also one of those things our squishy human brains might do better than silicon number crunchers, so hey, maybe you'll help solve some actual problems.
I've always liked the potential in the idea of a procedurally generated murder mystery, but seldom has it been attempted, and even more rarely is it actually any good. The Inquisitor actually gets the basics right, which is impressive for a jam game. Though I don't wonder why people keep getting murdered in a house where every room contains a dozen maces, axes, bottles of poison, and incriminating letters.
One Scene 7
The latest in a run of one-room puzzle games that require inventive use of the mouse. Starting with a white room, the scene becomes increasingly complex as you progress.
A bomb has been detonated in the middle of downtown and the best way to determine who set it up is to backtrack down the social media timeline of six suspects, then accuse the wrong guy so reddit can go off on a half-cocked witch hunt. Well, skip that last part.
A strange combination of "build during the day, survive at night" and a match-3 puzzle game. Match up combos of building materials while the sun shines, and at night combine blocks of swords, shields, and monster spawners to fight your way to dawn. Hint: The moon doesn't move at night until you do, so try to keep your sword and shield up and only spawn monsters when you're ready.
The Sun and Moon
A clever puzzle-platformer that combines gravity reversal with phasing through walls and ceilings to make for a few head-scratchers. This one's more of a proof of concept, but if you like it then it's since been fleshed out into a full game on Steam.
The Deepest Sleep
The third game in a three part series (bet you can guess their names,) Deepest Sleep is a point and click adventure with some unsettling visuals, creepy sound design, and a few jump scares to keep you on your toes. As usual, it's best to play with the lights off.
Talos Principle Open Test
"The Public Test for The Talos Principle consists of four increasingly difficult complete puzzle levels, where players will be able to test the range of puzzle mechanics, as well as run a benchmarking AI bot for their PC."
The Fastest Skeleton
Climb the tower, skeleton! No, climb the... arg, just climb the stupid... stop falling! You are the worst skeleton, skeleton! I hate you!
Everybody's too absorbed with their stupid cell phones to pay any attention to the impending end of the world. Luckily you're here to smack them out of their hands and bring them back to reality. It's just a shame the cops don't understand your good intentions.
Discover new particles by generating high energy collisions with your own body. Go ahead, just run through the acceleration chamber and smack into the wall. Because that's apparently how you damn kids do high energy physics these days.
Soviet Union also has arcade machines! Made of steel and gears! Not like weak, capitalist electronic arcade!
So, yeah, while the arcades of the 70s were booming over here, the Soviets had Morskoy Boi. Try out a flash simulation of the machine, and check out the rest of the museum while you're on the site.
Fly through stark corridors and fling steel balls at everything that looks breakable. Excellent sound design and shattering physics make for a satisfying and oddly relaxing experience. But really, what's more relaxing than breaking everything? Also, the only mobile-only game on the list. I made an exception because it's just that good.
Zineth is all about going fast and looking super-pretty doing it. If this is the proof-of-concept I sincerely look forward to where they're going to go with it. Note: Pretty much unplayable without a game pad.
A pretty, relaxing game where you swing your way through randomly generated levels to collect points. Simple enough, but it's so satisfying when you manage to glide perfectly through a stage without hitting anything.
You massive mech has crashed in hostile territory. Good news, you can get the resources needed to repair your core and get home. Bad news, those resources are guarded by unfriendly aliens. Better news, you've got friends to cooperate with.
Endless Pit of Doom
Somehow I always thought falling down a bottomless pit would be more restful. You know, time to catch up on reading, sleeping in freefall... but no, this particular pit is full of roots, ledges, and poison gas. Thankfully, it's also full of spellbooks for slowing time and shielding yourself. For some reason.
Sons of the Holster
If there's one thing I miss about bartending in a wild west saloon, it's the gun fights. No, wait... Those were terrifying and awful. Unlike this shared-keyboard game, which is totally adorable.
Rogue Soul II
Run, jump, dash, stab, and steal gold (and hearts, if you managed to snag a flower and ran into a lady) in what pretty much amounts to a cutesy, autoscrolling 2D Assassin's Creed.
One of the guys behind Sir, You Are Being Hunted made a neat little distraction. It's a pretty basic racer made to show off a procedural terrain generator, but gouraud shaded polygons blurring past under a rapid day-night cycle still look pretty cool to me.
Flappy Bird, if it were instead about sharks and also had four simultaneous players crowded around the same keyboard.
Rocket motocycles race across alien planets while shooting at each other. Is that ever not fun?
Poor little mining robot. All alone in a big, scary universe with nothing to do but hop between planets, drill out their precious ores, and turn itself into a shinier and better mining robot. Actually, that's a pretty good life.
Sentry Knight 2
One of those shooty-spelly-upgradey-grindy defence games that you'll end up playing for hours on end without realizing when you were supposed to be doing something important. Which means it's a pretty great example of the genre.
I'm pretty burned out on modern day zombie scenarios. Meanwhile, a zombie apocalypse visited upon the Crap Ages is still comparatively unexplored territory. Equal parts clicky-slashy defense and "recruit and rebuild" sim, Decision Medieval will seem familiar, but at least the setting is fresh.
The world is disintegrating around you. Run ahead of the destruction and collect glowing doodads to keep things stitched together in this procedurally generated 3D platformer.
Rockets Fucking Everywhere!
Does exactly what it says on the tin... well, not exactly. There are rockets everywhere, though, and we're going to dodge them for a few seconds before inevitably exploding.
Titanfall may have stolen a bit of its thunder, but Hawken is still the best dang free giant robot game around, with over a dozen different customizable rigs and no trace of pay-to-winnishness. Big stompy shooty mechs that actually feel like big, stompy, shooty mechs are harder to come by than you'd think, and Hawken pulls that off perfectly. Now if only my computer would play it without needing a bucket of ice.
Why did snakes lock up all those monkeys? Are they behavioral scientist snakes? Regardless, now you're a monkey with a gun and you've got friends to break out. A super-simple little shooter, but the rinky-dink soundtrack and Commodore-64-ish graphics are too charming to pass over.
Short, sweet, and to the point. It won't take you more than a few minutes to play through Frail Shells, and it's completely understandable if you need a hug afterward.
Fistful of Frags
Considering the reputation the wild west has for gun fights, it's weird that we don't see more shooters make use of the setting. Fistful of Frags picks up the slack with some rootin tootin first person shootin.
A brilliant neon cluster f!ck of a platform shooter with brutally hard levels, a mess of weapons, about a dozen different baddies, and a pretty much guaranteed aneurysm.
An absolutely hilarious cinematic multiplayer shooter where all the flipping and sliding around you're used to seeing in the movies almost never goes the way it was planned. A must play if you like watching people trying to punch each other to death while they fall off tall buildings.
Probably not technically a shooter, unless you count using yourself as a projectile. "For the AWK drone, moving and shooting are the same. It attaches to walls, floors, and ceilings, then launches explosively to its next target. Anything in the way will have its whole day ruined."
A "split screen multiplayer sumo shooter," which is just as neat as that sounds. Players try to knock each other off the edge of the arena with guided force missiles they can curve around obstacles from behind cover.
A shooty dungeon crawl with couch co-op for up to four players. Smash TV vets will like.
Maybe better remembered as ARC (Attack Retrieve Capture), Armor Critical started off as a student project around 1995 and changed hands repeatedly over the next dozen years before disappearing for a while. Kind of a 2D flag soccer with little saucers that shoot lasers. The most important skill to cultivate in ARC was lag-shooting. That is, comparing ping and shooting about that far ahead of a player so you might actually hit them.
In the office of the future things are pretty much like the are now, only more so. Meaning things have been so soul-deadening that coffee breaks become a fifteen-minutes hate, with coworkers trying to kill each other with the R&D department's armaments. Game pad recommended.
My Friend Pedro
There's something relaxing about flipping through the air slow-mo shooting guys in the head. My Friend Pedro is kind of like a 2D Max Payne, if Max were motivated by a hallucinatory talking banana.
An online multiplayer stick figure shooter, kinda similar to Soldat, with a few weird toys like skateboards thrown in. Whee!
You've got a frozen moment in time to see how many skulls you can pop with limited number of bullets. Fortunately, the bad guys set up shop in an exploding barrel factory full of panes of glass holding back gallons of acid. Which is nice of them, I guess?
Loadout (PvE campaign)
Featuring a sense of humor expertly targeted at thirteen year old boys, Loadout is nevertheless very enjoyable as a multiplayer PvE game. Especially if you aren't feeling terribly compelled to pay cash for a dangly, pixeled-out "T-bone's Steak" costume option. Fun, but not even in the same zip code as classy.
Coming from someone who has never seen the program, you don't necessarily have to be a fan of the Scifi (er, Syfy) show to enjoy its MMO. The story isn't bad, the spectre of pay-to-play doesn't spoil things, and the setting and point & shoot mechanics are a refreshing break from the usual orcs & elves.
An adorable and very casual, anime-themed MMO with rapid progression and a cute story. Mix-and-match classes make it feel similar to FFXI, but without all the soul-crushing grinding.
Smilar to Dofus, a terribly named MMO from years back, Wakfu is its sort-of sequel, with more classes, more nations, prettier art and more detailed animations. Combat is turn based with grid movement, which makes for a more thoughtful change from the usual MMO "click crap as it comes off cooldown" nonsense.
Path of Exile
It turns out that Diablo 3 eventually ended up becoming a good game, though not necessarily what we expected from a Diablo sequel. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, there was a Diablo sequel made that stuck with its gritty art style, huge variety of loot, and expanded on its complex skill system. Path of Exile is essentially Diablo II: II, and is absolutely mandatory playing for anyone who felt alienated by where the series actually went. Better still, it's probably one of the most ethical freemium games out there: Cash shop items consist solely and exclusively of cosmetic upgrades. It may not have come out this year, but PoE has been enjoying such a steady stream of expansions and new content that I'd be remiss not to plug it again.
The original Planetside went free to play this year! The graphics may be a bit long in the tooth, but it's still a solid MMO shooter that's been trucking along for over a decade. Maybe I'll run into some old friends still kicking around in there.
NONE OF THE ABOVE
Okay, so this one isn't technically a game, but it's just too neat to share. Like the title implies, Space Engine is a spacey sim that uses astronomical data to let you explore the universe. The only thing missing is a tiny Carl Sagan chattering in your ear.
Games on the House
Not a particular game, but something worth bookmarking and checking once in a while. Periodically Origin swaps through oldie-but-goodie games for free download. Stuff like Sim City 2000 or Wing Commander III. Down side: You've gotta install Origin.
Console Living Room
This is supposed to be a list of 101 games, but let's cheat a bit and technically inflate the number by an order of magnitude or so. Internet Archive's virtual living room includes dozens of emulators for old game systems, from icons like the Sega Genesis to esoteric oddities like Atari's Starpath Supercharger. Saves the trouble of kicking around skeevy rom sites, anyway.
You know those long nighttime drives where your mind starts wandering, the radio does weird things, and reality just sort of starts to feel a bit more slippery than usual? It never remotely occurred to me that someone would try to make a game about that, but Glitchhikers comes about as close as possible to capturing that weird, almost disembodied feeling when you're having conversations in your head and the world outside might as well be a perfect void other than the occasional half-glimpsed impossibility.
More of a toy than a game, cultivating a bonsai world means balancing the pastoral with the urban and knowing just when and where to do some necessary pruning.
And here's another bonsai/zen garden god game. I`t's pretty easy to relax when you're the master of all of time and space and you also have a sticker album.
This one's super short, but too weird not to share. Try solving block puzzles by morphing your character into different letters. Use p and q to step over a bump in the road, or use a big, fat m to bridge over a pit. Strange, and very clever.
Parable of the Polygons
Speaking of parables, this one uses a neat Conway's Game of Life style sim to examine diversity using triangles and squares. A bit twee in its explanation, but an interesting way to make a good point.
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